NYT headline: Judge Blocks New U.S. Rule Limiting Credit Card Late Fees Set to take effect on Tuesday, the rule would save households $10 billion a year in “junk fees,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said.One of journalism’s consistent flaws is ignoring relevant context.

Case in point is this NY Times story about a judge tossing out a new federal regulation limiting extortionate credit card late fees.

Here’s the context the Times didn’t care to include: The financial companies that profit so wildly from these fees went forum shopping, and landed one of their favorite far-right-wing, Trump-appointed judges, who predictably did what they wanted.

Journalistic malpractice, IMO.

When Joe Kahn succeeded Dean Baquet as the top editor of the New York Times, many of us who’d been critical of the organization’s truly wretched political coverage hoped against hope that Kahn would make vital changes. At the top of my personal list was the desperate need for the Times to recognize, given its vast influence in our culture, that our democracy is in dire jeopardy — and that continuing the Times’ business-as-usual political journalism would play into the hands of those who want dictatorship.

No such luck. As a new interview with Kahn conclusively demonstrates, the Times — still a great news organization in so many other ways — has chosen to stick with political business as usual. For people who care about journalism’s essential role at this pivotal moment in America’s history, this is demoralizing. For America’s democracy, it is a body blow.

Ben Smith at Semafor was the interviewer, and his questions weren’t exactly an example of journalistic hardball. But at least he did ask, directly, whether Kahn believes it’s crucial for a news organization — which depends on democracy’s survival to function — to do what it can to prevent a would-be dictator from taking control.

Not a chance, said Kahn. Here’s an extended quote:

To say that the threats of democracy are so great that the media is going to abandon its central role as a source of impartial information to help people vote — that’s essentially saying that the news media should become a propaganda arm for a single candidate, because we prefer that candidate’s agenda. It is true that Biden’s agenda is more in sync with traditional establishment parties and candidates. And we’re reporting on that and making it very clear.

It’s also true that Trump could win this election in a popular vote. Given that Trump’s not in office, it will probably be fair. And there’s a very good chance, based on our polling and other independent polling, that he will win that election in a popular vote. So there are people out there in the world who may decide, based on their democratic rights, to elect Donald Trump as president. It is not the job of the news media to prevent that from happening. It’s the job of Biden and the people around Biden to prevent that from happening.

It’s our job to cover the full range of issues that people have. At the moment, democracy is one of them. But it’s not the top one — immigration happens to be the top [of polls], and the economy and inflation is the second. Should we stop covering those things because they’re favorable to Trump and minimize them?

The last part of that is genuinely shocking to me — apart from the implication that polls are decisive in newsroom decision-making.

One of the key reasons democracy is not the top issue in polls is that our news media — starting with the New York Times — have refused to take the threats to democracy seriously. Meanwhile, they’ve done stenography for the Republicans’ apocalyptic framing of immigration and inflation, serious issues indeed and needing serious coverage. Regarding inflation, which has slowed dramatically, there is zero context in most coverage; U.S. inflation is much less severe than in other major economies, but you’ll almost never see that in the Times’ (or any other organizations’) articles on the subject.

Of course the Times (which, to be fair, occasionally does excellent political journalism) should cover the full range of issues. But the prospect of fascism in America dwarfs the others, or should, for any news organization that understands journalism’s most crucial role.

Hell, journalists should see this as a matter of self-preservation if nothing else. End democracy, and you end the system that protects (most of the time) freedom of expression and, by extension, freedom of the press.

So let’s really be “very clear”: Kahn’s ducking of journalistic responsibility boils down to this: News media have no core responsibility to democracy itself, even when one of the two major-party candidates and his cult-like following have said out loud that they support democracy only if it produces the result they want, namely a Donald Trump regime with extreme right-wing policies.

Kahn’s stance — shared, pathetically, by the rest of Big Journalism though rarely so plainly — is journalistic abdication in the face of an emergency. It is shameful.

Given the Times’ recent history, the situation is even worse than that. Even as the Times refuses to take an essential stand in its newsroom, it has persisted (as have basically all major media outlets) in treating Trump and the extreme right that now controls the Republican Party as “one side” of a normal debate.

The Times has consistently and willfully normalized the extremists over the past eight years (and longer). The Times gives endless attention to extremists’ anger, treating even Nazis with the utmost respect on its news pages. The Times, again like other media organizations, has done consistent stenography for blatantly bad-faith right-wing propaganda, letting Trump and his acolytes act almost as an assignment desk. Hey, it’s just another part of being balanced — and the horse race, right?

When Kahn says it’s “not the job” of the news media to help preserve democracy, he is refusing to look even a single day past the fall elections. Whether this is a calculation, or mere cowardice, is irrelevant.

If fascism overtakes America in the next few years, the Times will cover the fascists ever so respectfully. It will be business as usual, until it’s too late.